An ace salesperson can sometimes sell you some good life lessons. We all have to…
Process Equipment Marketing is more like high level consulting rather than selling a simple industrial product like a fork lift or truck. The cost is usually higher and an ongoing partnership between the customer and the manufacturer needs to be part of the relationship.
One of the challenges I often hear from companies is this: “We know what new business activities we should be doing. We just don’t do them consistently.” Many times a company that knows it’s ideal customer doesn’t have the resources to make the cold calls needed to get through to the manufacturing engineer. This is where the internet can go to work. The internet can be your 24/7 technical sales person.
And that makes a lot of sense. New business involves lots of unglamorous and, frankly, unenjoyable activities. Stuff like: sales meetings, staying in touch with prospects, and applying just the right “nudge” to prospects who are making a buying decision.
In addition to being not a lot of fun, many new business programs are pretty disorganized: leads falling through the cracks, missed hand offs between sales team members and details from prior conversations lost or incomplete. But even if you did have it, trying to touch base exactly when needed (when the chief engineer goes back to researching esoteric keyword phrases to find a solution to a value added problem).
So if new business is unenjoyable and disorganized, is it any surprise that companies aren’t executing their plans consistently?
This post lays out a few ways that companies can build a process for new sales that’s organized and consistent. We can promise that this will make new business your favorite thing to do, it will help you execute and get better results. And that’s pretty fun.
1. Create a Plan
First things first: you need an overarching plan for new business. Before you invest in tactics, content, technology or anything else, create a plan. New business strategy and planning is a blog post all its own and there are lots of great resources out there to help you on this front, so I’m not going to dig into the details on this topic. Typically a plan is, “We need customers we can partner with, ones we can add value to the equation. We don’t want to compete on price.”
When you work with your customers, you help them build a manufacturing strategy and a plan before you start going into system plan and equipment. Your marketing plan is very similar.
In the internet world you need to do new business activities each week, several times per week. The purpose of this is to consciously choose your highest priority leads, opportunities and activities for the week and execute those.
2. Get a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system (and Use It)
Leads: In an average month you probably come across a handful of new potential prospects. For instance, you come across an interesting company when reading an article, or a colleague at a networking event mentions a thought leader who you should get in touch with, or you discover a promising organization while doing a Google search. You need a place to park these leads while you research or reach out to them. Your CRM process should have a central place where you can store new leads while you’re in process of qualifying them.
Contacts: Once you’ve qualified a lead as a good prospect or partner, you need an organized way to keep in touch with them. That may involve “one-to-many” communication like newsletters or nurture campaigns, or “one-to-one” communication like personalized emails or phone calls. For each contact that you’ve qualified it’s important to have them categorized (or “segmented”) based on criteria like their industry, and their quality/potential. You probably have hundreds or thousands of contacts in your database: to create a personalized outreach plan for each is impossible. So we identify a few segments and then create an outreach plan for each. This allows for efficiency and organization.
Opportunities: Opportunities are the active deals that you’re working on. An Opportunity involves a specific piece of work: a project or a concept, and generally goes through a standard set of steps (for instance: initial meeting, proposal, negotiation, and close). A CRM can give you an overview of all the potential business on the table to ensure you’re proactively moving all of them towards wins, and to find trends in process after the fact.
Clients: Do you have a plan for keeping in touch with existing and former customers, and cultivating new business opportunities? Remember, new business doesn’t just mean new customers. A good start for your wear or replacement parts business list but those influencers in the company might not be the new process systems engineer.
Activities: Your CRM should provide you a dashboard of all your current activities. All your new business TODO’s in a single place.
Before you worry about automation, advanced metrics or new technology, get the fundamentals right: a simple system for managing your leads, contacts, opportunities, clients and new business activities.
3. Translate Your Goals Into Simple Metrics
What’s your primary goal for the year?
When you create your new business plan, you’ll of course spend time defining or refining your goals. Another smart technique is to define some simple business metrics to make sure your new business activities are on track to reach those goals.
For example, let’s say your goal is to grow revenue by 5% this year and start working with new OEMs.
The next step would be to answer these questions: How many new customers would you need to increase revenue by 5%? And how many well-qualified prospects do you need to land a new customer?
Let’s say the answer to those two questions are 2 and 10, respectively. Assuming you don’t lose any existing customers, you’ll need about 20 new well-qualified leads to reach your goal. Obviously this isn’t an exact science, but it’s extremely valuable to give you a general benchmark for the number of new prospects (or leads, or opportunities, or whatever) that your new business activities need to be generating.
If your analysis says you need 20 qualified leads to hit your goal, but you’re currently only generating 1 or 2 a year, you’ll need to adjust your new business efforts to achieve your objectives.
4. There’s marketing and there’s customer relationships
There are a few truths about new business: relationships are king, timing is everything, consistency is important, deals don’t close themselves/selling is required. Another key point about new business is this: You can’t keep in touch with everyone.
Sure, you can add as many resources as you like to media, trade shows and internet marketing, but when it comes to the One-to-One high-touch, personalized communications that are critical for new business, there’s a limited number of prospects you can keep in touch with.
Every company should have their “Top-20″ (or Top-12, 15, 18, whatever) list of ideal prospects that they proactively keep in touch with on a monthly (or more frequent) basis. We want to stress the importance of breaking down your overarching priorities into weekly priorities. If your goal is to keep in touch with everyone your Top-20 list once a month, that’s about 5 personalized contacts per week (or one per day). When you build that into your weekly or daily game plan that’s how you develop consistency.
5. Let the odds work in your favor
This decade is about marketing automation.
The purpose of marketing automation is to take work off the plate of the leadership so they can do the new business work that only they can do: building relationships and closing business. It’s a big topic that deserves more space than we can provide here, but there are a few questions you could ask to start thinking about the sales enablement process that you need:
What Is the Work That only I Can Do?: What are the new business activities that only I – the owner – can do effectively? What other new business activities am I doing that marketing automation could do (e.g. assigning tasks, integrating systems, recording notes/ entering data, searching through Sent mail, sending boilerplate emails, etc.)?
What Can I Delegate?: Who else in the company (or outside of the company) could take over the non-required tasks listed above? Is there someone in the company who can be responsible for marketing automation (i.e. a single person who is responsible for making sure the systems work, the data is up to date, the activities are getting done, the process is being followed)? This doesn’t need to be someone’s full time job, and it doesn’t need to be a senior person in the company. For instance, there could a junior sales person who has an interest and aptitude for process/systems work who would be great for the role of managing the CRM and sales enablement.
What Are The Handoffs Between Me and My Team?: Once you know the roles and responsibilities, it’s important to define the process for how people will execute their tasks and communicate. How will lead/prospect/opportunity ownership be assigned among the team? How will tasks be passed between team members? What are the criteria for qualifying a lead? What happens when the lead is qualified? What are the stages of your sales process and how are opportunities moved from one stage to the next? An effective new business process doesn’t just get the company more new business, it also takes work off the company executive’s plate.
New business efforts often fall short because of lack of consistency. It’s the classic story: Company A diligently keeps in touch with a Prospect for a few months, Company A loses track of Prospect for 6 months, Company A gets back in touch with Prospect only to find that Prospect just hired Company B. That’s no fun.
The companies that are able execute their new business program consistently over time have built processes to ensure that activities are planned out, prioritized, organized, delegated and measured. The process doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to be clear and followed by everyone at the company. 2016 is just around the corner. Make it the year that you achieve the new business results you know you can.
Inspired by a post in RSW/US, Agency Client Relationship Experts, Agency New Business Insights guest post by Brian Shea, founder of Shea Consulting, Advertising agency new business development is very similar to expensive process equipment purchases.